Morris Yachts’ first 45-footer, built in 2000, was designed by Chuck Paine to provide a luxurious cruising interior within a stiff and lightweight speedster for the purposes of ocean racing. It was a successful design on the racecourse, but the deep draft limited coastal-cruising destinations. A new Morris 45 seeks to balance spirited performance with a more cruising-friendly design. Chuck Paine’s beautifully fair hull, with its long waterline, remains intact in the new iteration, but the deck mold, keel, and interior have been completely redesigned.
Two variations of the new Morris 45 are available. The owner of the boat we tested during CW’s Boat of the Year program last October is serious about racing, so he chose a high-aspect carbon-fiber rudder, a Jim Taylor-designed keel, and the tall rig. With a growing family, however, he also needed the comfortable cruising platform provided by the 45’s interior amenities.
Morris Yachts has a well-deserved reputation for high-quality construction. The 45’s hull and deck are vacuum-bagged E-glass with Kevlar reinforcement over Core-Cell. It’s light but extremely durable: This is no throwaway raceboat nor high-volume production boat built to a price point. The best materials are combined with traditional construction practices-like a through-bolted hull/deck joint, beefy backing plates, and tabbed bulkheads-in a yacht intended to last for generations.
The redesigned deck has a larger cockpit, with a wraparound coaming; more headroom under the coachroof; and a wider trunk cabin than the previous iteration. I was particularly impressed with the companionway, which features brass tracks for the brass-edged drop boards, a stainless-steel chafe guard on the threshold, a hand-bearing compass mounted just inside, and the best hatch-locking system I’ve ever seen. Bluewater boats need a latch in the sliding hatch that’s easy to open both by the off watch from below and by the crew in the cockpit and yet stays positively closed in the event of boarding waves. For security, it must also be lockable. The Morris design is elegant, beautiful, and seaworthy.
Mainsheet and traveler controls are on either side of the companionway under the low dodger. In the cockpit and on deck, excellent nonskid, well-placed handrails, and multiple harness/jackline attachment points are marks of a true passagemaker.
On the boat we sailed, the headsail-trimming system, which clears the side decks of genoa tracks and cars, borrows from ocean racers: It employs an infinitely adjustable floating-lead system near the shrouds. On the bow, racing and cruising necessities peacefully coexist: A beefy anchor roller and ground tackle share space with a removable carbon bowsprit and a through-deck Reckmann roller furler.
Below, the gleaming varnish and matte ash ceilings-classic Morris-will take your breath away. The elegant interior has been cleverly engineered for weight savings using cored joinery and a cored cabin sole, at no expense whatsoever to the unmistakably Down East good looks.
The split-level cabin provides room for increased tankage under the sole and a panoramic view from the dining area, to port, out the large windows in the pilothouse. The roomy head-the only one aboard-is opposite, with a separate shower stall and three hanging/wet lockers. The nav area is just forward of the head and features a well-thought-out area for laptop use, with hidden wire chases and plugs, a large desk, and a red light so the navigator’s night vision won’t be compromised.
Forward and down a step are a pilot berth and a settee that slides out for more comfortable sleeping in port; both are fitted with lee cloths and are excellent sea berths. The sumptuous U-shaped galley is to port, well ventilated by two opening ports and a hatch above. Polished granite countertops are ground out to a 3/16-inch thickness and cored with aluminum honeycomb to save weight. Integral countertop knife storage, fitted dish storage, proper fiddles, hinged refrigerator lids, and a foot pump at the deep double sink are some of the many thoughtful details that a sea cook will appreciate.
In the master cabin forward, the centerline double berth is accessible from the sides. A second double cabin is tucked under the cockpit just aft of the dining area. Throughout the boat I noticed seaworthy details, including lockable sole panels, top-quality hardware, and well-placed handholds.
One of CW’s nomination-round judges, American Boat & Yacht Council instructor Ed Sherman, called the Morris’ mechanical and systems installations “works of art.” Service access to the complex systems is excellent.
The wind was blowing at about 10 knots on the day we test-sailed the Morris 45 off Annapolis. We drew appreciative looks from passing boaters as we tacked up the bay, making 6.9 knots under main and 105-percent jib. The huge carbon-fiber wheel made steering a dream; the boat was responsive and easy to control, even when we hoisted the asymmetric spinnaker and heated it up. A “panic button” under the wheel allows the helmsman to dump the vang quickly, but I found it a little too easy to step on inadvertently.
The 54-horsepower Yanmar with saildrive and a three-bladed Flex-O-Fold prop moved the boat easily through the light Chesapeake chop at more than 8 knots. We did notice that the stern squatted, dipping a fair bit of the transom underwater and compromising the boat’s optimum performance. Morris is aware of the issue, and this winter, when the boat comes in for fine-tuning (as semicustom boats always do), the company will look into some weight redistribution for the heavy cruising gear aboard.
A new Morris M45 in sailaway state costs $907,000; the one we sailed cost $1.2 million. No small change, but for an elegant and beautifully engineered yacht that’s likely to provide decades of racing and cruising pleasure, it may be a wise investment indeed.
Stacey Collins was a Cruising World Boat of the Year judge in 2007 and 2008.
LOA 45′ 4″ (13.82 m.)
LWL 40′ 7″ (12.37 m.)
Beam 13′ 3″ (4.04 m.)
Draft 7′ 0″ (2.13 m.)
Sail Area 1,046 sq. ft. (97.2 sq. m.)
Ballast 8,500 lb. (3,856 kg.)
Displacement 23,974 lb. (10,875 kg.)
Water 125 gal. (473 l.)
Fuel 60 gal. (425 l.)
Mast Height 67′ 7″ (20.6 m.)
Engine 54-hp. Yanmar
Designer Chuck Paine
Phone (207) 244-5509